It’s been a year and a half since the COVID19 vaccines came on line to address the pandemic when it first swept across the globe, and COVID’s been changing ever since. It’s what viruses do. My oldest son has tested positive for COVID three times since the outset of this 21st century plague, and he has been fully vaccinated and boosted. The last two instances didn’t even keep him home from work. He is an emergency room doctor, so he was needed at work. One of the metrics he reports as positive is the virtual absence of intubated patients. So, I asked him what we can expect this year.
First, COVID 19 has not just gone away, but it has changed to the even more virulent omicron variants for which our bodies do not yet have good enough protection. So, it seems that we will on a go forward basis need to get booster vaccines like most of us have for whatever current flu strain is taking root each year. The real difference, of course, is how deadly and more easily spread COVID is. But this season we have more understanding of how to treat the disease and an even better understanding of what the vaccine needs to have in order to combat the current strain.
The current vaccine addresses two variants of the Omicron variant…yup, variants of the variant. They’re the BA.4 and BA.5 which public health experts say will pretty much cover the COVID that they expect to continue circulating through the cold weather months. But, the few who have not yet received the first round of vaccines will still need to get those before being eligible for the new Omicron variants vaccines. Their immune systems have some catch up to do. And all of this is the optimistic scenario with the virus staying relatively stable in these newer, dominant strains. If that changes, we all will need to change to be optimally protected against whatever COVID is cooking up for public consumption.
When? Good question and there is some variability in the answers, but most medical providers encourage some time between now and Halloween, because cases already are showing up in the emergency rooms. My son, however, points to a small positive in that virtually no one is sick enough to require intubation because they had been vaccinated for COVID before. But for your older loved ones, contact their PCP as soon as possible, because age and comorbidities factor into the overall calculus. And while you’re having that conversation with your loved one and their provider, ask about shingles and any other issues for which your loved should seek protection. …because you want the scariest part of this season to be the costumes the little trick-or-treaters will wear around your neighborhood when Halloween arrives not the infections circulating.
Charlotte Bishop is an Aging Life Care Advisor, Geriatric Care Manager and founder of, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago. She also is the co-author of How Do I Know You? A Caregiver’s Lifesaver for Dealing with Dementia.